Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight hitters Curtis Blaydes and Mark Hunt collided last night (Feb. 10, 2018) at UFC 221 inside Perth Arena in Perth, Australia.
It’s been a long, strange road for Hunt. Despite some tough losses along the way, “The Super Samoan” has proven a durable bastard beyond his legendary chin. Now in his mid-40s, Hunt still entered last night’s contest as a member of the top five looking to turn away a fast-rising prospect. Blaydes, meanwhile, had the misfortune of debuting opposite Francis Ngannou — long before either man had grown to their current position. Outside of that debut, however, Blaydes has not lost a round, and he was looking to steamroll one more opponent to break into the title mix.
Blaydes opened the fight intelligently, throwing long punches and feinting quite a bit. Hunt was looking to counter, but Blaydes showed little worry for his opponent’s strikes and was willing to trade a bit. Blaydes scored an easy takedown, but Hunt scrambled to his feet quickly.
Right after Hunt returned to his feet, he countered Blaydes with a huge right hand. The wrestler was wobbled badly and seemed to be nearly finished, but he managed to duck under a shot and land a takedown. This time, he was able to establish top control and drag Hunt back down when he did stand.
Blaydes finished the round in top position, dropping heavy shots from the back mount.
Blaydes made no effort to hide his first takedown attempt directly at the start of the round, and he nearly finished the shot. Hunt defended, and Blaydes returned to shooting out the jab and cross from a long distance at his foe. Blaydes did a better job of avoiding the pocket this time around, waiting for Hunt to come after him and ducking under the left hook with a double leg.
Hunt attempted to roll through but couldn’t quite escape to his feet. From half-guard, Blaydes mostly focused on controlling position, but he was nevertheless able to drop some elbows and open up a cut on Hunt’s forehead.
The momentum was on Blaydes’ side heading into the third round, but the fight was still very much up in the air considering how close the opening five minutes was.
Blaydes nailed Hunt with an immediate takedown to start the round, driving Hunt into the fence. “The Super Samoan” sprung back up along the fence, but Blaydes slammed him once more, this time moving into the mount position. From the mount, Blaydes stayed very tight, which did limit his ability to do damage. At the same time, each of his small shots and elbows did damage even if they were not full power blows.
Hunt did not quit, continuing to fight and scramble until he was able to turtle up along the fence. Unfortunately, Blaydes’ ability to lift and throw his opponent from that position is well-known, and he repeatedly returned Hunt to the mat when the legendary kickboxer tried to stand.
Hunt worked until the final bell, but he just couldn’t escape his bigger foe.
Early on, Blaydes had a bit too much confidence on the feet. Throughout the fight, he was very rarely touched by Hunt’s strikes except for when he chose to strike from within the pocket. In those exchanges, Hunt landed the better shots just about every time.
Luckily, Blaydes learned quickly. After the first round, Blaydes only struck from the edge of his far longer range. Whenever Hunt tried to force the issue, Blaydes did his best to run through a takedown. It didn’t work every time, but it ensured that Blaydes was never in range to eat another counter right hand.
Aside from that, Blaydes’ mat returns were excellent. Hunt did a great job of getting back to his feet and into the clinch along the fence, a position where he’s usually able to escape. However, Blaydes used the standard lift-and-return, belly to back throws, and even little trips to suck Hunt back down to the mat.
It exhausted the kickboxer and earned Blaydes the victory. Blaydes should see a top five ranking this week, and a match up with a truly elite fighter like Alistair Overeem would make sense next.
Hunt made the most of the opportunities given to him, but he was forced to fight a very difficult fight last night. At Blaydes’ kickboxing range, none of Hunt’s punches had a chance to land. He could not pressure Blaydes’ easily, as that would give his opponent an easier entry to takedowns. Hunt pretty much had to land the perfect counter shot to win this bout. In reality, Hunt did just that in the first, but Blaydes has a hell of a chin.
Hunt had to land the perfect shot twice.
Considering his age, we shouldn’t expect Hunt to completely revamp his game, but more jabs and perhaps the calf kick would be ideal for the K-1 star. As it is, Hunt’s position as gatekeeper to the top five remains, it just so happens that Blaydes is at that level.
Last night, Curtis Blaydes ground out his opponent for a huge victory. Who should Blaydes face next?
For complete UFC 221: “Rockhold vs. Romero” results and play-by-play, click HERE!